Nearly every day I hear from newsletter subscribers, forum posters, and potential clients who've been charged with the task of learning how to optimize their company's website to gain more targeted search engine traffic, but they simply don't know where to begin or the best way to go about it.
Should they learn to do it themselves? Should they attend a large conference? Buy some SEO books? Sign up for an online course or in-person training class? Or should they simply bite the bullet and hire an agency to do it for them?
The answer to these questions will depend on several factors. Years ago, there weren't many options for training in this industry, but many courses and classes have sprung up recently that are worth their weight in gold. I cannot stress enough how your search marketing education is an investment in the future of your website. That is often lost on people when they say they simply can't afford training.
The reality is that you simply can't afford *not* to be trained in some way. How you go about obtaining that training will depend on these factors:
-Your current level of knowledge
-Your learning style
How Much Do You Already Know?
If you do most of the work on your website already, and you've been dabbling in SEO/SEM for awhile, you may know more than you think. Perhaps you've been reading some newsletters and forums, and a book or 2 here and there. You've tried a few things out on your site, and you've seen some positive results, but you have the distinct feeling you could be doing better. What should you do next?
If that's your basic profile, it may be time to take things to the next level. One of the large search marketing conferences might be just the ticket for you. Check out SMX or SES. Large conferences are an amazing way to gain additional insights that you can take home and apply to your website. Networking with others in your situation at these events can also provide you with ideas for your own website.
It's important to note that you will get the most out of large conferences if you already have some basic knowledge of SEO/SEM and have been using it somewhat successfully already. Make sure you have the ability to learn in a large group by listening to a diverse set of speakers on each panel, as well. The benefit of so many speakers from a wide variety of companies is that you will learn things from numerous points of view and experience.
If you don't have much SEO/SEM knowledge, you may be overwhelmed at one of the large conferences. Hearing bits and pieces of info from tons of people who each have their own way of doing things may leave you confused.
If that's your situation, or if you have a smaller budget, I'd recommend a more personalized training route. If you're self-directed and like to learn online, there are some great e-learning courses available these days. You’ll want to first check out the courses from the SEMPO Institute and MarketMotive.
These online courses are also very helpful to those just starting out in the SEO/SEM industry who want to start their own search marketing agencies, or who have recently been hired by an agency. You can take the courses without missing out on any work time, and avoid the hassles and expense of traveling to a conference. They also provide certifications which can help when applying for jobs in the industry.
Some people have a hard time learning on their own via e-learning courses, and really need to be taught in person. Rather than attending one of the large conferences and then figuring out how to apply it to their website, the other option is a small, personalized training classes or workshops. High Rankings offers full-day SEO classes that are limited to just 6 attendees. The benefits of this type of education is that you will learn information that is specific to your own website, as well as learning what's wrong/right with your classmates' websites. High Rankings has also recently added specific half-day in-depth website marketing workshops covering keywords, copywriting, social media marketing and web analytics.
It's Up to You!
In general, the decision to further enhance your SEO/SEM knowledge will often come down what is the most effective use of your time. For instance, if you're the online marketing manager for a company and SEO/SEM is only a small percentage of your job, learning enough SEO/SEM to understand things may be enough for you to then effectively hire a search marketing agency to do the rest. In this case, again, attending a large conference or a smaller training class might get you up to speed on what needs to be done on your website.
On the other hand, if you're in the SEO/SEM industry and need to be on top of every trend, you will want to be sure to have a large education budget so you can try out a number of learning opportunities. Even if you feel you know the search marketing space inside out, you may be surprised to gain many great nuggets of information at a conference and/or a training class. It often takes only one new idea to make you tons of money somewhere down the road!